Category: Art quilts

Continue moving forward

This month (year) has started with a mix of emotions; excitement about moving forward and apathy toward the constant obstacles with doing the same. In a way, I feel like I’m picking up where I left off 2 years ago. This is a good thing. But with ice storms, power outages, threats of illness and cancellations, … and an MIA art quilt … I’m a bit over it all already.

Just breathe.

As a deadline looms, I will keep going. However, in the back of my mind I have a suspicion my email program isn’t mailing out these blog posts to my subscribers and I have to start working on creating new online courses. The technology issues will have to wait until I can find the time and mental capacity to work on them.

I have made some decisions about some fun things I want to start doing. I’ve also cleared my plate of other things that have taken energy from my path. There’s such a mix of things going on. Yet, isn’t this what a fulfilling life is all about? Even if my heart sometimes wants to argue about it, I will always try to look for the bright side. I will maintain my tenacity to embrace fear and continue moving forward.

 

Godspeed

I set The Messenger free, again. I packed it in a box and now it is traveling across the United States in the back of a FedEx truck. I’m sharing it’s good karma with the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum in La Conner, Washington.

“The Messenger” was selected to be part of the museum’s popular 5th Annual “Birds of a Fiber” exhibit. The exhibit runs from January 26 – February 27, 2022.

I’m very honored to have my hawk hang in the beautiful Victorian era museum aviary of filled with art quilt birds. I wish I could travel with it. In a way, a little piece of me is. The Pacific Northwest holds a special place in my heart. Its the first placed I lived after leaving Chicago. I treasure my memories of the beautiful landscapes and the first bald eagle I ever saw. I know a piece of my heart and soul was left behind when I moved back east. It feels good to be sending another part of me back after all these years (even if only temporarily).

Its also been a long time since my artwork has exhibited outside NC. It’s a good feeling. I hope this majestic bird brings good messages and joy to all who see it. Godspeed.

____________
5th Annual Birds of a Fiber Exhibit
January 26 – February 27, 2022
Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum

703 South 2nd Streed
La Conner, WA 98257

Bring you peace

As a textile artist, I have plenty of fabric. Even with a closet full, I still find it hard to resist purchasing new yardage when it inspires me. Sometimes I store it away and occasionally pull it out to pet it. If you’re not a fabric person, this may seem odd. I understand, because when I started quilting years ago and purchased yardage I would use it all up before I purchased more for the next project. My friends sort of giggled at my “conservative” approach.

Eventually, I realized that fabric makers have a hold on us. Fabrics usually only have a limited run and then they’re gone … forever. If you purchase a little for a project and decide you need more, you may never find that fabric again. So that’s when my hoarding collecting began.

Sometimes I purchase a fabric just because I like it. Other times, I have a clear vision. That clear vision is what happened with this art quilt, “Seductive Tranquility.” The background is one piece of batik dyed fabric. The horizontal gradient of colors from blue to pink to purple is all one piece of fabric. It reminded me of a sunset and I had to purchase it.

When I made this quilt, I added the mountains, the foreground of grass and the tree. I feel peace when I see this quilt. It reminds me of sitting in a mountain cabin with the building lights behind me and the sun majestically setting in front of me.

Nature can be a very calming and meditative place. But, you have to take time to stop and look. It doesn’t require a big production or hiking adventure. When you see something, like a sunset/sunrise, cloud formations, falling leaves, an acorn in the road, a bird in a tree, whatever …. take a moment and a breathe. Observe, even if for a split second. The tiny respite will bring you peace.

 

Never one way to do anything

Last month in my newzletter, I explained my desire to engage more with my readers who don’t live in my local area. For a variety of reasons, this year has really grounded me to my local community. I exhibited locally this past June and have been focusing on teaching live workshops at a local creative space. My blog posts tends to be more about the mental/emotional aspects of being a creative. I don’t usually show too many how-tos here. I’ve been thinking maybe I should change things up the next few weeks and see how you like some occasional insight into my process.

So … let’s talk thread painting… one of my favorite things to do. The butterfly image is an example of a before and after of thread painting on a fabric known as “quilters cotton”. Quilters cotton is fairly lightweight and flimsy. And if you’ve ever tried to sew on it, you might notice that it starts to draw-up (pull in). You may even notice that the stitches don’t look very neat. So how do you apply such dense stitches onto this fabric without making a mess?

Stabilizers.

By definition a stabilizer is “a thing used to keep something steady or stable.” With lightweight fabrics we need to add something to the fabric to make the material more “stable” and less likely to draw-up. What’s fun is we have lots of options to choose from.

  • Interfacing: This material is attached to the back of fabric (or between 2 layers). Most commonly they are used in clothing construction to stiffen shirt collars or cuffs. There are interfacings that need to be sewn in and others that have a heat reactive (fusible) glue on the back that can be ironed in place. Every thread painter has their own preference. My go-to is Pellon 809 Decor Bond (fusible). It’s fairly stiff material giving me plenty of support and I can easily remove the excess material from the back of my work.
    _____
  • Quilt batting: Think of the thread painting as dense quilting. Fuse or pin the batting to the back of your work and stitch. You may get more draw-up with batting than other products, but it has the bonus of creating a 3-dimensional (trapunto) effect.
    _____
  • Canvas: A dense cloth used for boat sails, tents and painter’s canvases. Needs to be pinned or fused to the back of the fabric and draw-up is very minimal. It’s challenging to remove any excess, so plan to leave it in or add extra to stretch the finished thread painting onto a stretcher bars to make a finished art piece.
    _____
  • Stiff Interfacing: A very dense, thick non-woven polyester material that does not flatten or distort with steam, example Peltex. Used most commonly for crafts, like purses, fabric postcards, etc. Used when you want a really rigid finished project.
    _____
  • Embroidery hoops: Yep! just like the ones hand embroiders use. It’s common to find hoops that are 1/2″ thick in the hobby stores. However, the foot of some machines won’t raise high enough to get the hoop under it. I’ve find 1/4″ thick hoops work with any machine. Hoops that are 12″ wide (diameter) work best for most sewing machines. Note: when you use a hoop for thread painting, you want to the fabric in the hoop to be in contact with the bed of the sewing machine. Look at hooped fabric, one side looks like a drum and the opposite side looks like a tray. When thread painting, the tray side is facing up when we stitch.

I always encourage everyone to experiment. Try new materials and look at your results. Which do you like? There’s never one way to do anything.

_____________________________
Want to learn more about thread painting?  Take my online on-demand course Paint with Thread to learn how. Learn at your leisure, with unlimited access to the materials.

Understanding of color

I find inspiration walking outside in nature. I don’t even have to be in some remote, exotic location; I could be in my own backyard or a city garden. I’m always finding interesting plants, animals or landscapes that catch my attention. If I find something really inspiring, I’ll take a quick photo. I try not to be too obsessive about picture taking, because I don’t want to distract from the ultimate experience of being in the moment. Being with nature is an opportunity to have all our senses engaged. What do you see? How do you feel? What are you smelling? How does the air around you feel?

Although I try to limit my photo taking, I do love the collection of images that I’m building. When I flip through them, its like being transported back in time; the memories, the senses, my emotions…I’m there, in that place, once again. Having this collection of images is also a great reference for art making.

Recently one of my blog subscribers, Cindy, wrote to tell me about a quilt teacher she once had. This wise instructor told her, “don’t worry about color; look to nature for combinations.” What a fabulous lesson Cindy learned! And it is so true!! My collection of nature photos work as a color reference too.

In my blog post last week, I questioned the purple and orange combinations in one of my felted bowls. Yes, of course it works! That combination occurs in many flowers, like the purple irises that grow in my backyard.

Flipping through my pictures, I find an amazing sunrise over a salt marsh with beautiful combination of neutrals. What a pretty quilt that would make with its rusty browns, greys, blues, a touch of green, and brilliant orange and yellows! Wowza!

Stunning 2-tone combinations can be found in the pink and green samaras (aka, helicopter or whirlybird seeds) of my Japanese maple. And, the chartreuse and brown of redwood trees could be the colors of wonderfully rich masculine/earthy quilt.

For creatives, mindful observation doesn’t just comfort our mind and soul when we’re in it. It can also open inspire us with new ideas and provide an intuitive understanding of color.

 

Have faith in your dreams

Last week I wrote about fear and how it may affect us when we make art. Fear is an emotion. It is there or it is not. With fear we can either accept the proverbial lion facing us or take action to change the outcome. That takes courage.

To find the strength to conquer our fears, we must want something bad enough. Courage takes passion. When you work on your art and you feel fear, its important to reflect on where the fear is coming from. Is it fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of succeeding, fear of change? Do you know?

When I face fear in my projects, I’m reminded of the children’s story, “The Little Engine that Could.” Do your remember? The little train engine pulled out all his courage and said, “I think I can!” — That’s faith.

Courage and faith go hand-in-hand. When I face my fears eye-to-eye, I think deeply. Do I have the passion? Do I want this bad enough? Am I willing to put in the time? Am I strong enough to stay focused to complete the project?  I gain courage by deciding to have faith that no matter what the outcome, I WILL BE OK!!

When facing your art challenges, you must believe you will be OK. Don’t worry about what any else thinks or says. Drum up the courage and have faith in your dreams.

A different road

Imagine you’re driving down the road and you come across a barrier that keeps you from moving forward toward your destination. What would you do?

Life is full of road blocks where we suddenly have to change our plans. Sometimes these blocks are crushing to your character. That one “thing” we so looked forward to is cancelled. Sometimes these detours are like gut punches either sucking all the wind out of us or feel emotionally devastating us. [Hmm? I think we all can relate after this past year.]

So what do you do? The road is closed. You have to re-group and make decisions. Do you find a way around the obstacle? Turn around and go back the way you came? Or, just sit there waiting for the barrier to move? There are choices. You may not be able to change the situation, but you are in control of how you react.

Recently, I’ve felt a step (or 2) off my game. Summers in the south do that to me; even with air conditioning, the heat takes a lot of energy out of me. I’ve kept moving though. I kept showing up. I wasn’t at the pace that I’d like to travel and wasn’t on a road I originally planned. I tried to keep an open mind and I found new opportunities. I made gut decisions, just because I felt like it was the right thing to do. I put faith in myself and headed down paths that could be dead ends. Unexpectedly, I found new directions I never thought about. It’s been an interesting and rewarding few months.

Then, yesterday this lovely book arrived in the mail, “Creative Strength Training Member’s Exhibition”. Proudly standing guard on it’s pages is “The Messenger.” How is it possible that my work is published in a book produced by Jane Dunnewold? Because in January, I decided to sign up for her class. Then, when she opened up the call for entry, I submitted my work. My soul was telling me I needed a new direction. So instead of waiting for my life to change, I grabbed the wheel and I turned down a different road.

The Messenger

Have you ever had a feeling that you foresaw the future? The word for this is prognosticate, meaning foretell or prophesying the future. Every so often I observe this connection in myself. It’s a bit of a crazy feeling because I don’t tend to go around predicting the future. Yet sometimes I look back on events to embrace that maybe I had some subconscious premonition. Let me explain by first sharing my artist statement for “The Messenger.”


  • “Hawks are considered messengers from deceased ancestors, deities, or other guides. Their intense gaze earns them great respect. I met this red-shouldered hawk at a hunting and fishing trade show. Once able to fly, the injured bird was now tethered to its handler’s gauntlet. With strong hollow bones, wings, and feathers, its large body (lighter than you would expect) is uniquely adapted for flight. Yet, there it perched, staring at me, unable to escape its captor. How would the courier continue with its dispatch while shackled in this auditorium? I took its memory home with me and decided to help it flee. When you are ready, courageous Messenger, fluff your feathers and spread your wings. It’s time to share your revelations; be free.”
    – Nanette S. Zeller (June 2021)


The Story:

I realized a few years ago that I needed to take my own photographs to use as inspiration for my art quilts. I like using birds in my art, but lack the patience and equipment to take photos of them. So I “kinda” cheat, by visiting places that have birds who will be models for me.

In early 2020, I found this red-shouldered hawk (right) at hunting trade show. The bird was part of a local rescue which rehabilitates injured animals. It obviously was use to the attention of people and kindly (anthropomorphic) let me take it’s photo.

I wrote the artist statement after I completed the art quilt “The Messenger”. If you look at the photo, you could see what I was thinking about when I wrote the prose.

Flash forward nearly 2 months, I found myself at another event with a different rescue group (nc-claws.org). I was able to take plenty of new bird photos from this event (i.e., more art quilts coming soon). I learned that whenever possible this group returned the rehabilitated animals back into the wild. They were releasing a couple birds last Saturday and I was selected through a raffle to release (following some training) a red-shouldered hawk. Is that serendipitous, or what?

This is not the first time I’ve had precognition. I just don’t always understand why. What I do know this time is the red shouldered hawk is trying to tell me something because it once again is The Messenger.

The risk to blossom

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
Anais Nin


Today I was reminded of this small art quilt that I made in 2014. It was based on the prose by Anais Nin. I created it early in the journey of finding my artistic voice.

Although the design is nature-inspired, I don’t believe at that time I was so focused on that vision. It took making pieces like this that generated the “ah ha” moment of “THIS is what I want to create.”

It’s interesting reflecting on the journey. We’ve all traveled to get here. From childhood until this very moment, our lives have changed along small incremental stages. In the midst of the journey we feel like we are the same as we always have been. Yet, only by reflecting on the milestones can we comprehend the leaps and bounds we’ve made.

Each step along the journey, leads to the next step. It’s like climbing the mountain; one step at a time. If you keep at it you’ll eventually reach the top … or find the next mountain to climb.

What’s holding you back from taking the next step? Are you willing to take the risk to blossom?

 

Positive ways

Life is a journey. You never know exactly how things will turn out. As much as you plan, there is dharma, the eternal and inherent nature of reality. What we plan is not 100% in our control. Through various turns or “twists of faith” we arrive in the present moment carrying with us what we lived.

I think we all can appreciate this after the past year. How many things did you plan for last year? How many plans were cancelled? Now that the scariest part of the pandemic seems to be over, we can review where we are.

I know I dealt with a number of disappointments this past year and now I’m pondering what’s next. What I learned over the years is not to give up. I keep putting things out there, hoping to see a nugget of return. Its obvious, I want my art to be seen. Not everyone does. Some people create for their own personal joy. Other’s make to gift. Its all good.

The more I make, the more I discover what brings me joy to create. What amazes me, is when when my heart is in my work, more people connect to it. Its a circle that I can’t force happen. So I just keep creating and putting it out there.

A couple months back I submitted 2 of my bird artworks to Martha Sielman (Director of SAQA) who’s working on a personal project. She wanted to create a book about fiber artists who are inspired by birds. Well, its kind of obvious that birds are one of my things and I do make fiber art (art quilts). So, I sent off a couple of photos.

Yesterday, I received an email from Martha, announcing that 2 of my birds were accepted for her book. It was such a long time ago that I submitted these pieces, I almost forgot about the possibility. I would be OK if my art doesn’t get accepted, but I’m also very excited when it is. This recognition gives me another affirmation to keep trying.  I encourage you to keep trying, too. Ask yourself “why do I create?” and “what do I want to create?” Discover who you are. Then go for it. Take classes. Mingle amongst your art supplies and make things. Take chances. If you want your work to be seen, share it whenever you can. Then let the universe answer in positive ways.